2005 Sarasota Blues Festival

This year's Sarasota Blues Festival artists have made names for themselves by doing more than just playing the blues. To varying degrees they've added something to the illustrious history of the genre, whether through their charismatic stage presence, technical prowess, storied background or just their outright refusal to go unheard. Here's an overview:


The Basics: Chase Vickers is a 10-year-old drumming phenom. He's a student at the Drum Studio, a sort of school of rock for promising young musicians led by multi-instrumentalist Sandi Grecco. Vickers and Grecco will play one song: "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The Band: Grecco joins Chase on guitar.

Why You Shouldn't Miss Them: Well, first, for obvious reasons, it's your national anthem, and it only takes five minutes of your day. Stand up for your country, put your hand over your heart and don't be afraid of your voice cracking at that "Land of the Free" part.


The Basics: It's a Bluesfest tradition to have a kid open the show every year. In the past, a young, pre-stardom Derek Trucks did the honors; this year, it's Reggie Sears. Asked where Sears is from, Bluesfest promoter (and de facto talent scout) Barb Strauss said, "I don't know. Somewhere in the 954 area code." Let's assume he lives near Ft. Lauderdale.

The Band: Singer/guitarist Sears is backed by drums, bass, keyboards and rhythm guitar.

The Sound: Sears is kind of neo-traditional, tackling old favorites with a distinctly upbeat, contemporary feel.

Why You Shouldn't Miss Him: This kid is persistent — he began calling promoter Strauss two years ago, before he made a CD, before he had a band, and, most notably, before he could even play guitar. He knew where he wanted to be, though, and now, with the release of his debut CD Transitions, his phone calls are finally being returned.

THE ALLSTARS, 1:20-2:40 P.M.

The Basics: Yet another Blues fest tradition. This year's Allstars lineup finds some familiar faces mixed in with a handful of newbies. Make them all feel at home.

The Band: The rhythm section of J.P. Coley, Art Siegel and Greg Poulos, otherwise known as the Venturas, perform alongside Ally Couch, Jimmy Griswald, Neil McCurry, Wendy Rich (of Soulshakers fame), Cliff Sadler, Eddie Tobin and others. Bonus: Tampa blues phenom Damon Fowler joins the group for this outing.

The Sound: How do you describe the melding of this many musicians? It should be loose and jammy — expect a few 12-bar shuffles — highlighted by Couch's vocals and Fowler's guitar theatrics.

Why You Shouldn't Miss Them: This is the "Locals Only" portion of the fest. Musicians that you might otherwise have to drive all over town and beyond to see are all in one place, which means less gas and more good times.

THE LEE BOYS, 3-4:15 P.M.

See accompanying article.

SONNY LANDRETH, 4:35-5:50 P.M.

The Basics: The long-haired Louisianan is one of the most highly regarded slide guitarists on the planet.

The Band: Dave Ranson (bass) and Kenneth Blevins (drums), two guys Sonny's known since high school.

The Sound: Blends Cajun, zydeo, swamp-boogie and Delta blues into a modern amalgam.

Why You Shouldn't Miss Him: His slide work will fry your noggin. He's appeared on albums by such roots-rockers as John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt and former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler. At this gig, however, expect a primarily Landreth-centric affair, drawing from his six albums.


The Basics: Harlem-born Copeland, daughter of blues legend Johnny Copeland, is easily one of the most anticipated acts on this year's bill. She sings in the tradition of Koko Taylor — big, brash and honest.

The Band: Kevin Jenkins (bass), Jeremy Baum (keyboards), Damon DueWhite (drums) and Arthur Neilson (guitar).

The Sound: Sort of a modern take on traditional blues, with extra emphasis on Shemekia's impressive vocal range.

Why You Shouldn't Miss Her: The girl's got skills. By the time she was 19, Shemekia had already inked a deal with major blues imprint Alligator, and has since gone on to play the blues fest circuits (though this marks her first Sarasota visit). A recent recipient of a W.C. Handy Award (for Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year), Shemekia is riding a wave of success that keeps expanding.


The Basics: The word "Legend" shouldn't be used haphazardly, but Delbert fits the description aptly. The singer/harmonica player has been in the game for half a century, and by now, you can be sure he's damned good at what he does.

The Band: Delbert's backed by a seven-piece ensemble, probably including horns.

The Sound: He's primarily regarded as a roadhouse R&B singer, infusing his songs with a fair amount Texas twang.

Why You Shouldn't Miss Him: Delbert's a survivor. He got his start in the '50s and '60s, playing harp for such blues icons as Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Bobby "Blue" Bland. He scored a Top 10 hit in 1980 with "Giving it Up For Your Love," and won a Grammy in the early '90s for his duet with Bonnie Raitt on her album Luck of the Draw. This is his second Blues Fest appearance, and it promises to be no less electric than his first warmly received gig.


The Basics: They snap. They crackle. They pop. They're fireworks.

The Sound: What, you haven't heard fireworks before?

Why You Shouldn't Miss Them: This is the first fireworks in Blues Fest history, held in honor of its 15th anniversary. What's more, the fest almost didn't happen this year, which makes the occasion all the more celebratory.

The 15th Annual Sarasota Blues Festival, Sat., Oct. 29. 11 a.m. gates. Tickets: $17 advance, $22 day of show. www.sarasotabluesfest.com